Community is Critical

Have you ever been to a social event where you didn’t know anyone?  It can be a little awkward can’t it?  Or, it can be a little adventurous…Who will you meet?  What can you learn?  What interesting people are here that you would never otherwise have the opportunity to connect with?

A number of years ago I found myself in this very scenario.  I was working with a client in Atlantic Canada whom I had spoken to on the phone a few times, but never met prior to this encounter.  We spent the day together as I trained his staff and that evening he invited me to a surprise birthday party for a close friend of his.

I initially declined because I figured I would feel out of place, and people would wonder who the new guy was in the corner and why he crashed the party.  He explained to me that there would be over 100 people at the party and I would fit right in.  This changed things, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to meet and party with some friendly eastern Canadians.

So, that evening I found myself amidst scores of partiers enjoying live music, great food and beverage, and who were there to celebrate the life of their dear friend who, by the stories shared by many in attendance, had spent his 50 years making other people’s lives better.  I felt honored and privileged to witness the community this man had built by caring for others.

It made me think, who would be at a party like this for me?  Have I invested my life in a way that has created community and made other people’s lives better?

I ended up chatting with a certain man for an extended period of time.  It turns out he was a very well known and influential politician.  He has enjoyed a long and significant career in provincial politics having served as Minister of Finance, Minister of Education and other powerful positions of authority.

We talked about community, change, the political process and politics in general.  I judged him to be a man of high moral value and one who truly wants to work for the good of society.  I asked him a specific question,

“How do you maintain your vision and motivation to create positive political change in the midst of oftentimes ruthless, vicious, unfair and selfish political opposition?”

His answer caught my attention…

“By surrounding myself with like-minded, good people who will stand together in the midst of the opposition reminding me why we are doing this”, he replied.

Wow – so simple, yet so profound.  I immediately saw how this was relevant, not just to those in politics, but to all of us.  I would call what he was talking about a “band of brothers”, or a community of allies.  Sadly, most men feel like “abandoned brothers” and not part of a band of brothers.

But you know something?  We can’t expect community to somehow magically form and then invite us in with open arms.  No, we must create community.  We must take the initiative to make community happen.  We must choose to reach out and connect with other men.

We must choose to meet together regularly, cultivating deep, open and honest relationships as allies in this adventure called the Kingdom of God.  Like Clint Eastwood said, “A man alone is easy prey.”  Similar to my new political friend, we are the targets of ruthless, vicious, unfair and selfish opposition that we can not withstand alone – we need each other.  We must walk together as one in a community of allies.

Have you chosen to surround yourself with like-minded, good men who will walk with you in the midst of spiritual opposition and remind you why we are doing this?  If you have not, it is never too late.  Community is critical and it must be created.

Take the initiative and create a community of allies to help keep you envisioned and engaged in this adventure of walking with Jesus.  We are not meant to walk alone.  We must be united in community, walking together as one.

John17:11, 21, 22, 23

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world and I and coming to you.  Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one…that all of them may be one…I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me.   May they be brought to complete unity…”

Proverbs 27:17

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Acts 2:44

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

A Life of Repentance

I had the pleasure and privilege of golfing Pebble Beach a while ago – one of the greatest golf courses in the world.  Spectacular scenery, challenging holes: an incredible experience.  And, you know what?  I shot par.  Yup, I shot par at Pebble Beach.

Pretty amazing eh?

Now, before you go thinking that I am an amazing golfer I need to tell you more of the story.  I didn’t play Pebble Beach at Pebble Beach.  I played Pebble Beach at a hotel in Seattle – on their golf simulator.  I chose to play Pebble Beach out of more than 50 golf courses from around the world.

If you haven’t tried out one of these simulators, they are quite extraordinary.  You hit off of artificial grass towards a huge video screen that projects computer graphics of the course accurately simulated through the use of GPS.  The computer is able to calculate the distance and direction of your shot as you watch the trajectory of your ball on the screen.

Your ball lands, you check the hole coordinates on the screen, pick a club and hit again.  I found putting the real tricky part, but you know what they say, “Drive for show, putt for dough.”

There was one other part of the computer simulation that was particularly helpful for me to shoot par.  It’s called the Mulligan button.  After every shot I had the choice of keeping my shot, or pressing the Mulligan button on the computer screen and shooting another shot.  I could choose to not have that stroke counted against me in my game.

I loved that button.  I must have pressed that button over 100 times.  I would hit a shot that I wasn’t pleased with, press Mulligan, adjust my grip, my stance, my angle, and then hit again.  I did this over and over again until my shots started to get truer and farther and I needed the Mulligan button less.

As I was doing this I began to think that this is like repentance.

In life we do something that isn’t good – our shot goes astray.  So, we ask the Lord to forgive us and to help us to change – to hit truer next time.  Then we take some sort of action to ensure that next time we “hit that shot” we get a better outcome.

You see, we are called to a life of repentance.  Repentance is a daily choice – a daily gift from the Lord to start again.  It’s an ongoing gift of mercy and grace from the Lord to lay aside the sin that besets us and keep moving forward in the game of life.

Sadly, many people have a negative perception of the word “repent”.  It can feel like someone is pointing a finger of condemnation at us, pointing out all our wrongs, all our sin, all our shortcoming, all our shame, all the things about ourselves that we don’t like and we’re not proud of.

Jesus doesn’t condemn us though.  Scripture tells us that He didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  Repentance is our opportunity to simply say, “Yes, I want a new start.  I want a divine do-over, a spiritual start-again, a miraculous mulligan.”

And this is not a one-time offer.  We are invited to live a life of repentance.  We can choose to live with an ongoing attitude to lay aside the sin that trips us up and press on toward God’s heart for us.

We are not perfect, and are not going to be this side of heaven.  So don’t let your pride trip you up and prohibit you from feely admitting that you blew it.  Admit your ‘sin’, repent and embrace the grace that God has for you.

Your sin does not disqualify you, only your pride will, because that is what stops you from repenting and receiving God’s forgiveness and grace.  Let’s choose humility, freely admit and confess our sin so we can receive God’s gift of life and grace.

Let’s choose to live a life of repentance and receive all the life and grace God has for us.

Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

1 Peter 5:5b-6

“’God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.”

John 3:17

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world though Him.”

Do You Practice Listening Prayer?

listen2You want me to do what? You have got to be kidding me…

“Get a haircut today.”, he thought he heard.

Ok, this is a little strange. Here I am trying my best to listen to the Lord and what pops into my mind is, “Get a haircut today.” God has got to have something more important to speak to me than that. I’m not sure if I am hearing God very clearly…

My friend was relaying to me his attempt to listen to God in prayer. He is learning that prayer is meant to be a two-way conversation. Prayer is not meant to be an occasion when we spew out our wish list like we are sitting on the lap of a Divine Santa Clause. The Lord has invited us into an intimate communion, a relationship where we engage with Him at a deep level. We offer our heart to Him, and He offers His heart to us.

It was in that mind set my friend was trying to listen to the Lord in prayer. He was sitting quietly, ridding his mind and heart of the pressures of the day, attempting to listen to God. A thought, a word, a scripture, a picture, a memory, a song, anything that may be a uniquely creative means by which the Creator of the Universe could choose to express His heart in a Rema Word.

Scripture is filled with examples of how the Lord speaks to His people. Jesus very clearly said that His sheep know His voice. My friend was trying to discern the voice of Jesus. And, what he thought he heard Jesus say was to get his hair cut today.

Now this was no simple request. My friend had waist-length hair. He had been growing it out for many years. This would be a drastic step of obedience. But, in his commitment to walk in obedience to what He believed the Lord was saying, he determined to get his hair cut that day.

When he got to work, he phoned a random salon and booked an appointment. After work he arrived very unenthusiastically to get his hair cut. All the while he was fighting the thoughts that this was ridiculous. Did God really say that? This is crazy.

The hair stylist noticed he was reluctantly getting his hair cut. She asked him why he was getting it cut because he clearly didn’t want to. So, being a person not afraid of full disclosure, he told her the whole story about his listening prayer session.

Upon hearing his story she immediately broke into tears. Emotion was pouring out of her in torrents.

“What’s happening? What did I say wrong? Are you ok?”, he inquired.

After she pulled herself together she relayed a story from years ago when, as a Catholic, she confessed to the priest she was angry with God for her mother’s early death. The priest informed her that was an inappropriate emotion towards God and kicked her out of the church. She has never been back. She has felt lost and alone for many years.

At this point in time her adult daughter was living on the street and sick, yet did not want her mother’s help. She was desperate to somehow help her daughter, to get support for herself, yet she felt she had no one to pray to – she felt alienated from God and by God.

This was a divine appointment. The Lord’s simple request of my friend and his subsequent obedience brought this woman in touch with a God who cares enough about her to send a total stranger to demonstrate His love for her. My friend prayed with her in the salon. They both tearfully connected with a Father who loves His daughter and wants her back home.

Through listening prayer the Lord can strengthen and encourage you, and as He did with my friend, lead you to strengthen and encourage others. Listening prayer is a means by which we connect with God’s heart. We share our heart with Him, and He shares His heart with us.

So, do you practice listening prayer?

Ecclesiastes 5:1

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

John 10:27

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

1 Samuel 3:10

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”

Luke 9:35

“A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’”

Freedom Fighter

freedom fighter

Click to watch “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real

Their armour glistened in the sunlight. The warriors, with passionate resolution, patrolled the perimeter of the property with weapons on the ready.

They knew their job. They knew their mission. Their commitment was unwavering, and their joy in the journey was contagious. They loved what they did and it showed. What they delighted in was seeing the one they were protecting in blessed assurance that she was indeed safe and secure under their watchful diligence.

Their armour and weaponry was custom made. In fact, they made it themselves: armour out of cardboard and tin foil, weapons out of wood. David was 8 and Benjamin was 7. They were patrolling our property on the lookout for threats to their mother – their queen. Anne was sitting in her favourite chair in the living room, relaxing while reading a book beside the large picture windows overlooking the lake.

Once on each patrol rotation around the property the boys would pass by Anne and bang on the window to ensure she was aware of their efforts, happy with their mission. They loved her loving them. She loved them loving her. Their protection was a practical demonstration of their love for their mother.

It was a beautiful picture of what naturally resides in the heart of a boy – to protect those they love. Especially their mother, the one woman they love more than any other on the face of the earth. There is something in the heart of every boy to protect his mother. Not to protect his father, but to protect his mother.

This childish desire is reflective of a critical role my sons will grow up to provide to their future wives: protection. Husbands fulfill 4 critical roles in their marriage: Pursuer, Partner, Protector and Provider. Oftentimes what we see played out in the lives of our sons demonstrates a much deeper desire planted in their hearts by God. Boys are not pretending to be warriors; they are practicing to be warriors.

As husbands we need to be aware of the warfare that surrounds us, our wives, our families, our churches, our companies, our communities, our countries – all of life. The reality is that the spiritual opposition set against us is also set against our wives and families.

We must engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of our wives. Not because our wives do not have authority is Christ, or because they are not able to fight on their own behalf. No, it’s because we carry a God-given covering for our wives.

You are not called to rescue your beauty. Only Jesus is the rescuer of your wife. You, however, are her freedom fighter.

You are called to an ongoing fight for the increasing freedom Jesus has for you and for your wife. You fight for and with her to appropriate all that God has for her, and for others through her. As husbands we must wear the mantle of our God-given authority to fight against the attacks of the enemy.

There are a number of practical steps you can take to fight for the freedom the Lord has for you and your wife:

  • Pray. Pray alone. Pray for your wife and pray with your wife.
  • Walk with God. Walk in surrender and obedience to Him.
  • Worship. Live a life of worship in all aspects of your life.
  • Walk in humility and repentance with Jesus, your wife, and with others.
  • Walk in community with other men who are allies in the epic adventure of the Kingdom of God in and through you.
  • Walk in purity and do not give the enemy a foothold to drive a wedge of lust and sin between you and your wife.
  • Meditate on the Truth to ensure you are not participating in the lies of the enemy, and are able to assist your wife in recognizing the lies of the enemy set against her.
  • Tithe. It is an act of faith, trust, worship and spiritual warfare.

As husbands we provide a spiritual covering for our wives meant to protect them, not to Lord it over them. We are freedom fighters, called to fight on behalf of our wives and help lead them to the freedom that Jesus, their rescuer, has for them.

You are a freedom fighter. A good marriage is worth fighting for, not fighting about.

Ephesians 5:23 (The Message)

“The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing.”

Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I Peter 5:8

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls round like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Are You a Fan or a Follower?

seahawks fans“Sea – Hawks! Sea – Hawks! Sea – Hawks!”

And so the cheer gained more and more momentum until it reached a deafening crescendo. Each side of the plane leveraged off of the passion of the other side of the plane to produce one harmonious, synchronous, and united exaltation in support of their beloved Seattle Seahawks – and they hadn’t even won the Super Bowl yet!

This past week I happened to, quite innocently, wonder onto a flight to Philadelphia that was, unbeknownst to me, the flight dozens of passionate Seattle Seahawks fans were taking to attend Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. As soon as they announced early boarding was being offered to all Seattle fans in team attire and I saw the masses of enthusiastic fans starting to celebrate in full regalia, I knew I was in for a long flight.

Sure enough, once seated, I was surrounded by scores of young men off on an athletic adventure, a pilgrimage to football mecca. They had all spent thousands of dollars for no other reason than to engage with other members of their tribe in support of a cause that brought meaning, hope and joy to their lives. They were firmly committed to do all they could to help their beloved Sea Hawks go all the way and win the big game.

“I wear the same socks to every game.” “I haven’t changed my underwear since the playoffs began.” “I haven’t changed my underwear all season!”

You wouldn’t believe all the stories of their rituals and superstitions I overheard. Each one convinced that what they were doing was somehow contributing to victory.

I admired their passion. I admired their enthusiasm. I admired their commitment. I admired their community.

I wanted to share it.

This whole experience got me thinking about the church. I wished I was that passionate about Jesus, the church and the Kingdom. I wished we were all that passionate about this epic adventure into which we have been called – and that passionate about the Caller Himself.

However, there is one critical distinction between these Seattle fans and us – we are not called to be spectators. We are not called to be fans.

We have actually been drafted by our Heavenly Coach to play the game. We have not been called to sit in the stands to cheer on Jesus and His select team of players. We are not even called to dress for the game and sit on the bench. No, we have been called to put on the jersey of Jesus, suit up in the (under) armour of God, take up our position on the team, and play hard. We are called to follow the instructions of the Coach and march that spiritual football down the field to score again and again against the opposition set against us.

We are followers, not fans. We are players, not spectators.

Our Heavenly Father coaches the team and sets the game plan, Jesus calls the plays as our spiritual quarterback and the Holy Spirit fills us with all we need to play our position on the team. It’s a winning combination. We need to follow the directions of the coach, run the plays called by Christ, support our team members and move in the strength of the Holy Spirit to overcome and dominate our opposition.

Sure, some of the opposition set against us is huge and intimidating, but we have divine power to be overcomers. We need the blocking (prayer) of other members of the team, work hard to play our position with excellence, and to encourage one another just like any other winning football team. Following Jesus is a team game – we cannot do this alone.

Kyle Idleman has written a book that has become a movement: Not a Fan. In it Kyle makes a compelling case that Jesus did not come to create enthusiastic admirers, but completely committed followers.

Let’s suit up to take our place on God’s team, following our coach and quarterback into victory over the opposition.

Players, not spectators. Followers, not fans.

I am not a fan of Jesus – I trust neither are you.

Let’s get in the game.

John 12:26

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

2 Peter 1:3

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

I John 5:3,4

“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.”

Delight of My Life

i love my sonThere was a crowd that’s for sure. Everybody had shown up down by the river. It was actually becoming the popular thing to do. Sure, there were many whose hearts were true and who were fully engaged at a deep level. But there were definitely others who just wanted to fit in with this new “movement”.

It was in the midst of all of this that he showed up. He arrived just like everyone else, wanting to do what was right. But he was no ordinary man. And that certainly became evident as soon as the proceedings got started. However, it was what happened after that sent a shock wave of awe through the crowd of spectators.

He went down into the water just like everyone else, but when he came up out of the water the heavens opened, the Spirit of God came upon him in the form of a dove, and God spoke audibly. Yes, audibly. Everyone heard it. And the surprising thing was what God said,

“This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”

A Father expressing His love for and delight in His son – Jesus.

The Father didn’t say anything about Jesus being the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. No, He said what Jesus needed to hear. He said what we needed to hear. “You are my son, I love you and I am delighted in you.”

This was validation, and it’s the example for what all men need to experience – the affirmation of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. This is the critical revelation that each and every man needs to experience. We must know that our Father loves us and delights in us. We must know that we have been born again into the family of God. We have been adopted as sons – beloved sons. We must understand the Father Heart of God toward us.

Most men live with a performance-based mentality. No matter how absent, awful, abusive or awesome your father was (or is) you have been seeded with the belief that you are only as good as you perform. It is a lie that is strategically sown into our hearts when we are young. We are not good enough and have to accomplish, achieve and acquire in order to be worthy of love, acceptance, significance, honor, praise, etc. The trouble is though, no matter how much you accomplish, achieve or acquire it’s never enough.

How much is enough? A little more…

With a performance-based mentality you spend your life trying to prove yourself – but you never can, it’s never enough. You try to prove yourself in work, in relationships, in education, in the community, in church – whatever. And the strength we try to bring into these realms is not our authentic strength, because our authentic strength is only found when we are rooted in our Father’s love.

What we are all hungry and thirsty for; the only thing that will quell that driving restlessness seeking affirmation and validation, is the Father’s love. To hear and experience at a deep heart level the Father saying to us, “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”

You don’t need to worry that this is not God’s heart toward you – it is. Scripture tells us that we are His beloved sons. This is the critical Truth we must allow to penetrate deep into our hearts. And, it starts by simply asking the Father to reveal His heart toward us.

“Father, would you please reveal your heart toward me. Who do you say I am?”

Then, journey with ‘Dad’ in this. Create time to listen in prayer. Set aside time to be alone – walks, hikes, drives, sitting in your favourite chair. Soak in Dad’s presence and listen. Soak in Dad’s Word and listen.

Your authentic strength, your authentic life, all that you hunger for, is found in the validation and affirmation of your Father’s love for you as His son. To know that you are chosen and marked by His love.

The delight of His life.

Matthew 3:16, 17

“The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit-it looked like a dove-descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: ‘This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.'” (The Message)

Romans 8:15

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (The Message)

Zephaniah 3:17b

“He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

What is a Wholehearted Man?

Click to hear a powerful song “Rise Up O Men of God”

I had a good friend of mine ask me a simple yet profound question:

“So what is a wholehearted man?”

Wow, good question. It really made me think…

“Wholehearted” is defined as being ardent, authentic, committed, dedicated, determined, devoted, fervent, genuine, passionate, steadfast, true, unreserved, unwavering, and zealous.

Wholehearted men live out of a deep sense of passion, purpose, commitment, conviction, identity and life. But, what does it mean to be wholehearted in relation to God?

I think a wholehearted man is wholeheartedly following God and has been made “whole” by God.

Let me explain. It is not enough to believe in Jesus. It is not enough to know about Jesus. It is even not enough to know Jesus. Even Satan believes that Jesus is real, knows about Him and knows Him personally. No, the mark of a true believer, a true ‘follower’ is just that – they follow Jesus. They obey Jesus. They have surrendered their will to Him and are obeying Him instead of doing what they want.

Jesus said that if we love Him we will obey Him.

Wholehearted men have turned their backs on sin and doing things their way and have wholeheartedly thrown themselves into God’s way of doing things. God’s will, God’s way on a daily, moment by moment basis.  They give Him all they have.

Wholehearted men are not “half-hearted” in how they walk with Jesus – a little bit of God when it’s convenient. Be God’s man on Sundays and then my own man the rest of the week. Call out to God when things are bad, but go silent when things are good. Keep one foot in the pleasures of the world, and one foot in the purposes of God. Count the blessings, but not the cost. Desire the life, without the death. Savor the salvation, without the sacrifice.

No, wholehearted men have hearts that are wholly His. All in. Men who have gotten out of the driver’s seat of their life and handed the keys to Jesus. Drive on Lord – I’ll go where you want, not try to talk you into going where I want to go.

Sure, no one is perfect, and I am fairly confident that is not what the Lord is looking for – that’s what His grace and mercy are all about. However, we have been given a will with which we can choose to surrender to God’s will or not. We have a will with which we can embrace humility and repentance when we mess us.

And, as we wholeheartedly pursue our Heavenly Father’s heart, through the redemptive work of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will have our hearts made whole by God’s work in us and through us. God’s overwhelming love – His great goodness and His good greatness – heals our wounds and sets us free from the ravages of sin.

Oh the great redeeming work of Jesus bringing God’s beloved sons and daughters back into an extraordinary relationship with our Father God. Hope, healing, freedom, favour, vision, blessing, victory, comfort, beauty, gladness, love – all part of our inheritance as children of God. Will we ever be completely made whole this side of heaven? I don’t think so, but there is far more wholeness for us than we can imagine.

It is certainly not easy to be a wholehearted man. It takes dedication, discipline, desire, determination and delight. God is looking for men who are wholeheartedly His. Men whose hearts are fully His. Men who are fully committed to Him. I think wholehearted men are continually praying, “Lord I believe, please help my unbelief.”, and then they keep moving forward with single-minded determination into more of God’s heart for them and through them.

We never arrive; we are always on a journey. It’s only by God’s grace we can walk wholeheartedly with Him with an iron will to obey, and a bended knee to surrender. Let us continue on. Let us press forward to be the wholehearted men that the Lord is seeking so that we might experience all that is in His heart for us. It’s not perfection He wants, simply a man who continues to pursue Him – wholeheartedly. To give him all that we’ve got.

Rise up oh men of God – give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of Kings! Let’s give Him all that we’ve got!

Romans 6:12-14 (The Message)

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time – remember, you’ve been raised from the dead! – into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”

II Chronicles 16:9

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Deuteronomy 1:36

“…except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.”

It’s Not All About Jesus

OK, before you think I am a heretic, let me explain.

We often hear that “It’s all about Jesus.”  A favourite song of mine from many years ago was, in fact, “It’s All About Jesus”.  Yes, salvation is found only in Jesus.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is the only way to the Father.  But that’s just it – He came to reconcile mankind to the Father.

Mankind’s sin had alienated us from the Father.  Jesus came to make a way for the sons and daughters of God to be in right relationship with their Heavenly Father.  He came to reveal the Father’s heart.  “If you have seen me you have seen the father.”  “I and the Father are one.”  “When you pray, pray like this, ‘Our Father who is in heaven…’”

My point is this:  Jesus came to connect us with our Father and demonstrate the heart of the Father to His children.  Jesus was about the Father and the Father’s business.

Here’s how it applies to men in a profound way.  Most men suffer from a performance-based mentality.  In other words, we have grown up believing that our value and worth depends on how well we perform.  This is a value system that was instilled very early on in our lives.  Get good grades – you’re valuable.  Excel in sports – you’re valuable.  Succeed in work – you’re valuable.  Make lots of money – you’re valuable.  Achieve, accomplish, acquire and you are significant and valuable.

Sadly, with this belief we are never validated.  We are never at rest.  We are always trying to prove ourselves.  How much is enough?  Just a little more…  Or, we have resigned ourselves to never being able to prove our value, worth, significance or manliness.  Regardless, whether we are trying to prove our significance, or have resigned ourselves to never being significance, we will always carry a question mark over our lives instead of an exclamation mark.

The only thing that can settle the issue of our value, worth, significance and validation as a man is the revelation that we are beloved sons of our Heavenly Father.  Scripture is very clear that we are beloved sons of God, and that is the source of our value and worth.  Even Jesus needed to hear His Father validate Him.  At His baptism and His transfiguration His Father said the same things, “This is my son whom I love and in whom I am well pleased.”

Basically, He was saying, “I love you and am so proud of you.”

This is what every man needs to hear from his Heavenly Father.  This is the only thing that settles the issue of our value, worth and significance – it’s the Father Heart of God.  It’s knowing that God delights in you as His beloved son.  He rejoices over you with singing.

It’s imperative that you seek and discover God’s heart for you as a beloved son.  To know that you have nothing to prove.  You are loved and delighted in by God.  You have been adopted as a son – born again – into the family of God by a Father who thinks you are awesome.  Your Father longs for a deep intimate relationship with you as His son, a relationship so intimate that you call Him Daddy.

When you truly experience the Father Heart of God, and the deep heart revelation that you are a son He loves, your question mark gets turned into an exclamation mark.  You settle the issue of your significance and you don’t have anything to prove.  Now, your accomplishments are an act of worship out of love, instead of an attempt to prove your significance.

Discovering the Father Heart of God is a journey, it’s doesn’t happen through a quick prayer or instantaneously.  It takes time.  It’s a relational journey that begins with you asking God to reveal His Father heart for you and then watching, listening and experiencing what He begins to do.  He can speak to you through myriad ways.  Keep your heart open and listen.

Jesus came to make a way for you to be in relationship with God as His beloved son, and the revelation of that will change everything.

Jeremiah 3:19

“I myself said, ‘How gladly would I treat you as sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.  I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.’”

II Corinthians 6:18

“I will be a Father to you and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Galatians 4:4-7

“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of sons.  Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

5 Ways to Guard Your Heart

My mom died of a heart attack when I was 9 years old.  She had familial hypercholesterolemia, which led to angina, which led to her death.

I have inherited her condition.   What that means is that my liver is defective and it produces way more cholesterol than I need.  So, I have been taking cholesterol lowering medication for over 20 years.  If I do not take my medication every day I would have died many years ago.

So, apart from a miracle, I will be on medication for the rest of my life.  It is an easy choice:  life with some minor side effects, or death.  My medication is how I guard my heart against heart attack.  There are some other things I can be doing, like exercise and eating a little differently, but my little pill does the lion’s share of guarding my heart against attack.

Now, let’s switch from the physical heart to our spiritual heart.  As we are aware, our hearts – not the organ – is the deepest part of us.  It is our true essence.  It is our place of deepest conviction, commitment, passion, purpose, identity and life.

Scripture tells us much about the heart:  God has placed eternity in our hearts; we must believe in our hearts; we must seek God with all our heart; good men bring good things out of the good stored in his heart…there are well over 600 references to the heart in scripture.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the well spring of life.”

We must guard our hearts because that is where our life springs up from.  That is where the image of God and the spirit of God abide.  Our enemy knows that, and that is why the story of your life is a long and sustained attack from the enemy of your soul against your heart to steal kill and destroy the life that Jesus has for you.

We must guard our hearts – but how?  Here are 5 ways you must guard your heart against the assault of the enemy:

1.  Meditate on the truth

Get alone, get still and fill your heart with the Truth of who He is and who He says you are.

2.  Metacognition

This means thinking about thinking – be aware of what you are thinking about.  Take captive your thoughts to the truth. If what you are thinking about does not bring life, hope, and peace then it isn’t based in truth.

3.  Recreation

You heart needs to breathe.  Get outside, paint, go boating, hike, garden, ride horses, make music – whatever it is that makes your heart come alive, do it on a regular basis.

4.  Rest

When you are tired you are more susceptible to the lies of the enemy, to being impatient, angry, to sickness, etc.  Sleep and take holidays.

5.  Community

Create a community of allies with whom you do life.  A man alone is easy prey.  We need to live in community with allies who will walk with us at a heart level – a band of brothers.

Hey guys, it’s a battle out there – let’s make sure we guard our hearts so we can appropriate all that Jesus has for us.

Psalm 4:4b

“Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.”

II Corinthians 10:5

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Howzaviz? – Be Strong. Be Courageous.

June 20, 2011

There I sat in the cab of the 1 ton dump truck waiting for who-knows-what to arrive and fill my order.  This was the first time I was at an aggregate supply yard.  I was 19 years old, and very intimidated.  I had been sent by the owner of the landscape company I worked for between university terms to pick up 2 cubic yards of 1.5 inch drain rock.  I knew what the drain rock looked like, but I had no idea how much 2 cubic yards was and I really didn’t know what was involved in getting it into my truck.

As I sat there intimidated by these unknowns and by the mountains of material that surrounded my truck I felt something that did nothing to calm my insecurities.  The ground began to rumble around me – something akin to minor earth tremors – followed by a deafening roar that sounded like a jet engine.  My eyes then beheld the largest piece of motorized equipment I had ever seen in my life – an 8 cubic yard front-end loader.  Now, I know for many of you guys that may be a little girlie loader, but for a 19 year old North Vancouver middle class city slicker it was gigantic.

The big, burly, hairy driver opened the door and yelled something intimating at me, which I interpreted as meaning, “What do you want and how much of it do you want?”  I pointed at the mountain of drain rock and held up 2 fingers.  He yelled back what I think was, “Tell me when to stop.”  He then partially filled his bucket, rumbled over to my truck and gingerly shook out some drain rock.  I timidly told him to stop – having no idea how much 2 yards looked like and no idea if I even had what I came here for.  He left abruptly.

I drove back to the weigh scale on the way out to talk with the same rough, burly, intimidating guy I timidly asked on the way in how I get 2 yards of 1.5 inch drain rock.  He was the one who told me to drive over to the mountains of rock and wait.  When I reached the scale on the way out he said, “I thought you wanted 2 yards of drain rock?”

“Ah, yeah I do, but don’t really know how much that is and the guy in the massive loader seemed to be in a hurry.”

Then the God moment arrived – my significant life lesson began…

The rough, burly, intimidating guy looked me square in the eyes and said boldly and matter-of-factly as only a manly man could, “Look kid, you came here to get 2 yards of 1.5 inch drain rock.  Don’t leave until you have it!”  I am sure there were some colorful expletives mixed in there for good measure, but the underlying sentiment was clear, “Grow some balls kid.”  Or to put it in the Biblical vernacular, “Be strong and courageous!”

So, emboldened with a newfound confidence, and knowing that I only had 1 yard of drain rock, I drove back to mountains of rock and then boldly took charge of commanding the guy in the massive loader to give me one more yard.  Which he did, and I left a changed man.

My lesson was very simple: sometimes we just need to man up.  We need to choose to be bold and courageous.  Cowboy up.  Nut up or shut up.  However you want to put it, we simply need to choose to be strong.  It’s part of being a man.

So, you may very well be facing some very intimidating scenarios right now.  Yes, get prayer for you.  Yes, seek wisdom from the Lord.  Yes, surrender to His will and ask for strength.  Then, man up.  Be strong, be courageous – they are both choices.  Follow in Joshua’s footsteps.

Be strong.  Be courageous.  Be a man.

Joshua 1:9

“Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” (The Message)

Full-time Ministry is an Attitude

September 2, 2009man-at-work

I always wanted to be a pastor.  My brother is 10 years older than me.  He led me to Christ.  He discipled me.  He fathered me.  I wanted to be like him, and he’s a pastor.  I always figured that being a pastor was “first string”.   If you’ve played any team sports you know that there is first string, and then the rest of the team.  First string plays the most and they’re the best players.  I was a first string kind of guy.  I always had the idea, rightly or wrongly, that if I couldn’t play first string then I didn’t want to play.  I couldn’t stand the thought of watching someone else play knowing that I didn’t have what it takes to play at that level.

And it was with that attitude that the Lord led me into the marketplace.  I always felt like I was second string.  I just couldn’t cut the starting line-up – I wasn’t a pastor.  I was a teacher – in public schools and in a Christian school – for a period of time.  I have been in sales and marketing.  I founded my marketing agency 12 years ago, following a period of time as a sports marketing specialist in the National Hockey League.

Strangely, it was during my time in the NHL that the Lord spoke to me about the lie I had believed.

I felt like He asked me, “Did I call you – or anyone – to serve me with part of your life, or do I call everyone to give me their whole life?”  The answer was pretty obvious – “Lord, you call each of us to surrender totally to you and serve you with our whole life.”

“Well then, full-time ministry is an attitude, it’s not a position.”

You see, we are all called to be first string.  There is no “Plan B”.  We are “Plan A”.  Jesus called each of us to give Him our whole life – not just part of it.    We are all called to serve Jesus as full-time ministers, whether that is in the church or in the marketplace.

Are you in full-time ministry?  Remember, it’s an attitude, it’s not a position.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do work at it with all your heart like working for the Lord, not for men.”

Strength and courage,

David MacLean

Give Me Your Backpack

May 11, 2009

After graduating from UBC with a Commerce and PE degree, Anne and I got married, went to Bible School and then moved to Winnipeg to be with my brother and the church in Winnipeg.  I worked in business as an Account Executive, but had always believed that I was to teach.  So, after a few years I resigned my position and went back to university to get an Education degree.  This marked the beginning of a very profound period in my life.

While at the University of Manitoba getting my Education degree I started a prayer and Bible study group with Christians in the faculty.  During one of those meetings I had my first vision.

I saw myself hiking up a mountain wearing a great big backpack.  I came to a fork in the path.  One path went straight up the mountain, and the other went down into the valley.  However, it wasn’t the paths that caught my attention – it was Jesus.  He stood at the fork in the path holding a climbing rope and a climbing axe.  He held them out to me and said, “Give me your backpack, all you need are these.”  My first thought was, “I can’t give you my backpack.  Everything I need for this trip is in there.”

The vision ended.

As I began to unpack the vision the Lord helped me to understand what He was saying.  The rope represented the Word of God.  The climbing axe represented the Holy Spirit.  The back pack represented all the things that I believed I needed to accomplish during my life in order for me to be considered “successful”.

What did I think I needed to accomplish in order to be a success?  A beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood.  Nice vehicles. Meaningful work.  A good income.  Enough money to give away lots.  Cool family holidays.  World mission travel.  A good reputation in the community.  Influence and favour in the community.  A ministry that makes a difference for the Kingdom.

The Lord was calling me to lay all of these hopes and dreams down and walk with Him – relying on His Word and the Holy Spirit.  It took me two years to come to the point of surrender.  At the time I was teaching in a private Christian school making $2,000/month.  We were raising a family on one income, and none of my hopes and dreams seemed remotely possible.  Jesus had to be enough.

What’s in your backpack?  Will you give it to Jesus?  Is Jesus enough for you?

Matthew 16:24-26

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?'”

Strength and courage,